Venture to the northernmost tip of Vatnajökull National Park, and you’re in for a treat. At 25 km (15 mi) long and up to 120 m (393 ft) deep, Jökulsárgljúfur is one of Iceland’s largest – and most breathtaking – canyons.
You’ll find Jökulsárgljúfur, which translates to ‘glacial river canyon,’ inside the Jökulsárgljúfur National Park. This protected area in North Iceland was carved thousands of years ago by glacial floods caused by volcanic activity. Until 2008, the region was a nature reserve in its own right before it merged with the iconic Vatnajökul National Park.
This corner of Iceland rewards you with jaw-dropping natural wonders. Two of its star attractions are the horseshoe-shaped canyon Ásbyrgi and Dettifoss waterfall. Stop by this mighty fall and see for yourself why it’s the second most powerful waterfall in Europe.
But this is just one of the beautiful waterfalls that plunge into the Jökulsárgljúfur canyon. You’ll also be treated to Selfoss, Hafragilsfoss, and Réttarfoss – three other nearby falls worth a visit. Along with Dettifoss, they’re fed by the river Jökulsá á Fjöllum, the second largest in Iceland.
Rauðhólar (the ‘red mountain’) and the unusual rock formations of Hljóðaklettar are also worth exploring while you’re here. The best way to enjoy them, and all of the other sights, is by following one of the canyon’s many hiking trails. The walks range from easy hikes to lengthy treks like the Canyon trail, a 32 km (20 mi) route from Ásbyrgi to Dettifoss.
A good place to start exploring Jökulsárgljúfur is from the Gljúfrastofa visitor center in Ásbyrgi. This is where most of the hiking trails start. If you’re coming from the north, take road 85 and turn onto the road leading to Ásbyrgi.
If you’re driving along the Ring Road, take road 864 to check out the east side of the park. Meanwhile, road 862 will take you to the western edge of Jökulsárgljúfur National Park. Each route is studded with viewpoints you’ll want to stop at.
While Jökulsárgljúfur canyon is open year-round, road conditions during the winter months can be unpredictable. For this reason, summer is the best time of the year to enjoy it.